President Obama urged viewers of American Idol to vote during the series finale of American Idol last night, suggesting that registering to vote should be as easy as voting on the show.
“For over a decade this show has motivated millions of young Americans to vote, often and with enthusiasm,” he said, “We should do the same in our lives as citizens for this country that we love. Voting is the most fundamental and sacred right for democracy. I believe that it should be just as easy as voting on American Idol, and we’re working on that.”
Vote.gov is a start. So is combining it with Facebook: a recent ad on the world’s biggest social network generated a single-day record for new voter registrations in Washington. [KBKQ] (We like the ASCII art in the USA.gov source code pictured above, too, discovered by Abhi Nemani.)
Why does that matter? “The Senate’s draft encryption bill is a privacy nightmare,” in the view of Wired’s Andy Greenberg.
He’s not alone. Kevin Bankston, director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, was unsparing in his criticism of the bill:
“This leaked draft of the upcoming Feinstein-Burr bill instructs every tech vendor in America to use either backdoored encryption or no encryption at all, even though practically every security expert in the country would tell you that means laying down our arms in the constant fight to secure or data against thieves, hackers, and spies. This bill would not only be surrendering America’s cybersecurity but also its tech economy, as foreign competitors would continue to offer—and bad guys would still be able to easily use!—more secure products and services. The fact that this lose-lose proposal is coming from the leaders of our Senate’s intelligence committee, when former heads of the NSA, DHS, the CIA and more are all saying that we are more secure with strong encryption than without it, would be embarrassing if it weren’t so frightening.
Not only does this bill undermine our security, it is also a massive Internet censorship bill, demanding that online platforms like Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store police their platforms to stop the distribution of secure apps. Of course, just as the bill fails to explain how security engineers are supposed to keep our data secure while also making it completely available to the government on request, it also offers no clue as to how online providers are supposed to comprehensively audit and censor every app on the Internet. In other words, this draft bill—which reflects no understanding at all of computers, the Internet, or digital security in general—demands that tech companies do the impossible. Considering that the White House reportedly won’t endorse this bill, the Senate Majority Leader seems uninterested in moving it, the House of Representatives would never pass anything like it, and the Internet community will oppose it with everything it’s got, this bill might as well be named the DOA Act, because it is certainly dead-on-arrival as currently written. Indeed, I can say without exaggeration that this draft bill is the most ludicrous, dangerous, technically illiterate tech policy proposal of the 21st century so far.”
“People have a whole new set of privacy expectations that are understandable,” President Obama said during yesterday’s conversation on the judicial system at the University of Chicago, according to Politico reporter Tim Starks. [Morning Tech]
“They also expect, though, that since their lives are all digitized that the digital world is safe, which creates a contradictory demand on government: ‘Protect me from hackers, protect me from terrorists, protect me from et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But I don’t want you to know any of your business and I don’t even want you to have the ability to investigate some of that business when it happens because of its broader implications and we’re worried about Big Brother.'”
Speaking of Big Brother, Buzzfeed published an investigation of airborne surveillance in the United States. Their analysis of aircraft location data collected by Flightradar24, a flight-tracking website, identified about 200 federal aircraft operating from mid-August to the end of December 2015.
Obfuscating aircraft locations is increasingly confounded by open transmissions from plane transponders, cheap receivers & the Web. In response, industry lobbyists are trying to block tracking planes in public airspace.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump’s campaign is finding support on Reddit, although the campaign itself is disavowing any relationship.
“The Bernie Sanders Reddit is very much working in concert with the Sanders campaign organization,” said Micah L. Sifry, a co-founder of Personal Democracy Media and advisor to the Sunlight Foundation. “The Sanders people have strategically realized this is an asset. In Trump’s case, none of that support is being developed. If anything, the Internet maybe shows the latent capacity of Trump supporters. They’re there, and they might be excited to be given something to do.”
Matt Pearce: “Secrecy has been allowed to flourish in the U.S. even as the government tries to improve corporate transparency abroad in an effort to cut off funding for terrorism, drug trafficking and other illicit activity.” [Los Angeles Times]
According to a USA TODAY analysis of 70 investigation reports, “supervisors instructed employees to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs’ medical facilities in at least seven states.” The records were obtained through a FOIA request. [USA TODAY]
It’s time to start looking ahead to the transparency issues around the presidential transition, even if the two parties haven’t settled on candidates quite yet. [Federal News Radio]
Comments are due on the federal government’s proposed open source software policy on Monday, April 11. Please weigh in!
STATE and local
New York City is going to start counting the number of homeless people on its streets four times every year. The de Blasio administration is calling it “Homestat.”
Sunlight advisor Waldo Jaquith spoke with Lauren Ancona, the senior data scientist of the City of Philadelphia, about Parkadelphia and open parking data. The big idea: “What if we could build something like GTFS, but for parking data?” [US Open Data Institute]
The Panama Papers are bad news for UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who now has admitted he profited from his father’s offshore trust. [Time, Guardian]
In 2013, Cameron announced plans to “create a publicly accessible central registry of information on beneficial ownership.” (The UK launched its registry in June 2015.) In his remarks, he said that tax evasion was “hugely unfair to the millions of hardworking people in Britain who pay their taxes.” [YouTube]
The Panama Papers “exposed a huge global problem,” says Robert Palmer, a team leader for Global Witness. Here’s his view of what’s next. [TED]
No, national company registers are not transparent. Access Info sent 32 countries a request for a copy of their database of company registers. 23 refused access to the register database in its entirety. 24 countries charge money for access.”This situation endures in spite of repeated promises in fora such as the G7, G20 and Open Government Partnership to open up company data,” noted Helen Darbishire.
On that count, Hatem Ben Yacoub tried to understand the Panama Papers by exploring the public data that’s available online. His analysis found that 97.% of the companies created in Panama aren’t publicly listed.
Germany intends to join the Open Government Partnership. [Elysee]
The government of Argentina will send a Freedom of Information bill to Parliament. [La Nacion]
MySociety co-founder Tom Steinberg reflected on how and whether civic tech startups should be self-funding. [Civicist]
Today, the Georgetown Law School and the Center on Privacy & Technology is exploring “the role of law enforcement and national security surveillance in the relationship between African Americans and their government – beginning with the colonial era and continuing to the present day.” You can tune in to the livestream online, if you’re not in DC.Interesting context: The New York Times published a compelling interactive feature about body cam cameras.
There’s going to be a civic hackathon on Civic Day in Charlotte, North Carolina tomorrow, April 9th.
MySociety is hosting a workshop on Open311 and open data standards for local government in London on Tuesday, April 11.
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